A patent licensing situation for H.265 has recently taken a turn for the worse with two patent licensing pools formed so far, and many license holders are not represented in either. The total costs to license H.265 from these two pools is up to sixteen times more expensive than H.264, per unit. H.264 had an upper bound on yearly licensing costs, whereas H.265 has no such upper limit.
This means that the licencing trolls have effectively killed off H.265 in any kind of open source or freely distributed software application, such as web browsers. This limits their use to hardware products.
Cisco thought that it would be better to create a new video codec, called this project Thor, and assigned some of its best codec experts, including the legendary Gisle Bjøntegaard and Arild Fuldseth.
To stop the patent trolls from killing it off, Cisco hired patent lawyers and consultants familiar with this technology area. It said it had created a new codec development process which would allow it to work through the long list of patents in this space, and continually evolve its codec to work around or avoid those patents.
It has now open sourced the code, which you can find here: http://thor-codec.org. It also contributed Thor as an input to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), which has begun a standards activity to develop a next-gen royalty free video codec in its NetVC workgroup.
It has also involved Mozilla which has been working on technology as well – called Daala – towards the same goal. As more technology gets contributed to this cause, the greater its chance of success.
“We will continue to develop Thor over the coming months, constantly evolving the codec as our patent analysis continues. We invite others to work with us – to help develop the codec, to participate in the patent analysis, or to contribute their own Intellectual Property Rights on a royalty free basis,” the Cisco kid has said.